Monday :: Feb 7, 2005

The Ministry of Republican Truth and Love

by pessimist

As the Republican Party continues to bask in its glory, winning new and uncontested victories daily, their masks are slipping off. Perhaps feeling great confidence, they seem to not be as careful about covering up their thoughts and intentions.

Case in point: (via Kevin Drum:)

Every day, we fight reporters and Democrats for using the term 'privatization' b/c every poll worth its salt shows it frightens the public. - Greg Crist, director of communications for the House Republican Conference

What is this - 'Please be quiet, you'll wake the babies'???

Maybe that's what we should be doing!

Some in the media are picking up on this awakening. Take this article:

The nation is quietly drifting toward a time when retirees will have to fend for themselves.

The modern American expectation that years of toil will be followed by years of leisure, with regular checks arriving in the mailbox while the retiree is out putting on a sunny back nine, is becoming more and more elusive.

It will still play out that way for the affluent. But for many middle and lower income workers, a sea change in the way retirement income is generated is putting that dream at risk. The nation is quietly drifting toward a time when retirees will have to fend for themselves without traditional, reliable monthly pension benefits.

That may be consistent with President George W. Bush's notion of an "ownership society." But it may not be the best thing for retirees. It's a reason to view reform efforts with care and caution.

That isn't the only Thing stealing softly into the American Dream and turning it into The Texas Chainsaw Massacre:

Hunger for Dictatorship

Weimar, whose cultural excesses made effective propaganda for the Nazis, now seems like the antechamber to Nazism, though surely no Weimar figures perceived their time that way as they were living it. We may pretend to know what lies ahead, feigning certainty to score polemical points, but we never do. Nonetheless, there are foreshadowings well worth noting.

The last weeks of 2004 saw several explicit warnings from the antiwar Right about the coming of an American fascism. Paul Craig Roberts in these pages wrote of the “brownshirting” of American conservatism—a word that might not have surprised had it come from Michael Moore or Michael Lerner. But from a Hoover Institution senior fellow, former assistant secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration, and one-time Wall Street Journal editor, it was striking.

Several weeks later, Justin Raimondo, editor of the popular website, wrote a column headlined, “Today’s Conservatives are Fascists.” Pointing to the justification of torture by conservative legal theorists, widespread support for a militaristic foreign policy, and a retrospective backing of Japanese internment during World War II, Raimondo raised the prospect of “fascism with a democratic face.”

His fellow libertarian, Mises Institute president Lew Rockwell, wrote a year-end piece called “The Reality of Red State Fascism,” which claimed that “the most significant socio-political shift in our time has gone almost completely unremarked, and even unnoticed. It is the dramatic shift of the red-state bourgeoisie from leave-us-alone libertarianism, manifested in the Congressional elections of 1994, to almost totalitarian statist nationalism. Whereas the conservative middle class once cheered the circumscribing of the federal government, it now celebrates power and adores the central state, particularly its military wing.”

Rockwell (and Roberts and Raimondo) is correct in drawing attention to a mood among some conservatives that is at least latently fascist. Rockwell describes a populist Right website that originally rallied for the impeachment of Bill Clinton as “hate-filled ... advocating nuclear holocaust and mass bloodshed for more than a year now.” One of the biggest right-wing talk-radio hosts regularly calls for the mass destruction of Arab cities. Letters that come to this magazine from the pro-war Right leave no doubt that their writers would welcome the jailing of dissidents. And of course it’s not just us. When USA Today founder Al Neuharth wrote a column suggesting that American troops be brought home sooner rather than later, he was blown away by letters comparing him to Tokyo Rose and demanding that he be tried as a traitor. That mood, Rockwell notes, dwarfs anything that existed during the Cold War. “It celebrates the shedding of blood, and exhibits a maniacal love of the state."

The warnings from these three writers would have been significant even if they had not been complemented by what for me was the most striking straw in the wind. Earlier this month the New York Times published a profile of Fritz Stern, the now retired but still very active professor of history at Columbia University...

Stern had emigrated from Germany as a child in 1938 and spent a career exploring how what may have been Europe’s most civilized country could have turned to barbarism. Central to his work was the notion that the readiness to abandon democracy has deep cultural roots in German soil and that many Europeans, not only Germans, yearned for the safeties and certainties of something like fascism well before the emergence of fascist parties.

One could not come away from his classes without a sense of the fragility of democratic systems, a deep gratitude for their success in the Anglo-American world, and a wary belief that even here human nature and political circumstance could bring something else to the fore.

He is not a man of the Left. He would have been on the Right side of the spectrum of the Ivy League professoriat—seriously anticommunist, and an open and courageous opponent of university concessions to the “revolutionary students” of 1968. He might have described himself as a conservative social democrat, of the sort that might plausibly gravitate toward neoconservatism. But he did not go further in that direction, perhaps understanding something about the neocons ...

To an audience at the Leo Baeck Institute, on the occasion of receiving a prize from Germany’s foreign minister, Stern noted that Hitler had seen himself as “the instrument of providence” and fused his “racial dogma with Germanic Christianity.” This “pseudo–religious transfiguration of politics … largely ensured his success.” The Times’ Chris Hedges asked Stern about the parallels between Germany then and America now. He spoke of national mood—drawing on a lifetime of scholarship that saw fascism coming from below as much as imposed by elites above. “There was a longing in Europe for fascism before the name was ever invented... for a new authoritarianism with some kind of religious orientation and above all a greater communal belongingness. There are some similarities in the mood then and the mood now, although significant differences.”

This is characteristic Stern—measured and precise—but signals to me that the warning from the libertarians ought not be simply dismissed as rhetorical excess. There may be, among some neocons and some more populist right-wingers, unmistakable antidemocratic tendencies. But America hasn’t yet experienced organized street violence against dissenters or a state that is willing—in an unambiguous fashion—to jail its critics. The administration certainly has its far Right ideologues—the Washington Post’s recent profile of Alberto Gonzales, whose memos are literally written for him by Cheney aide David Addington, provides striking evidence. But the Bush administration still seems more embarrassed than proud of its most authoritarian aspects. Gonzales takes some pains to present himself as an opponent of torture; hypocrisy in this realm is perhaps preferable to open contempt for international law and the Bill of Rights.

And yet the very fact that the f-word can be seriously raised in an American context is evidence enough that we have moved into a new period. The invasion of Iraq has put the possibility of the end to American democracy on the table and has empowered groups on the Right that would acquiesce to and in some cases welcome the suppression of core American freedoms. That would be the titanic irony of course, the mother of them all—that a war initiated under the pretense of spreading democracy would lead to its destruction in one of its very birthplaces.

But as historians know, history is full of ironies.

We may not be so far from the suppression of dissidents as we might think:

Paranoia grips the U.S. capital

The film Seven Days In May is one of my all-time favourites. The gripping 1964 drama, starring Burt Lancaster, depicts an attempted coup by far rightists in Washington using a top-secret Pentagon anti-terrorist unit called something like "Contelinpro."

Life imitates art. This week, former military intelligence analyst William Arkin revealed a hitherto unknown directive, with the Orwellian name "JCS Conplan 0300-97," authorizing the Pentagon to employ special, ultra-secret "anti-terrorist" military units on American soil for what the author claims are "extra-legal missions."

In other words, using U.S. soldiers to kill or arrest Americans, acts that have been illegal since the U.S. Civil War.

George W. Bush, who clearly believes he holds the mandate of heaven after being re-elected by the less mentally active half of American voters, has decided to "unleash" special forces and all sorts of irregular units, including mercenaries, uniformed bounty hunters, and mutants sporting t-shirts proclaiming "kill 'em all, let God sort 'em out." These militarized thugs and video arcade Rambos are sure to run amok, dragging America's once good name ever deeper into the mud.

We have evidently learned nothing from the wars in Indochina and Central America.

Have we reached Seven Days in May ?

Not yet, but the second Bush administration has been taking dangerous steps that continue to curtail personal rights, further emasculate the supine, cowardly U.S. Congress, and empower ideological or religious extremists and shadowy agencies with unrestrained powers that endanger Americans at home, and all abroad suspected of troubling the Pax Americana.

Just what is it that such excess against traditional American values, freedoms, and our liberty itself, is intended to protect? This post just might hold the key:

Nobles Need Not Pay Taxes

A new aristocracy is taking over not just the United States of America but also the world.

Proof of how far along it has come was in an article by Glenn R. Simpson in the January 28, 2005 edition of The Wall Street Journal. "European countries have been steadily slashing corporate tax rates," wrote Simpson, adding, "...between 2000 and 2003, one nation after another has moved toward lower corporate rates with fewer loopholes." Europe is simply following the lead set out by the United States, starting with the Reagan/Bush administration, when, in 1983, corporate taxes revenues were slashed to a low not seen since 1929.

This is more than just a tax cut story. It's about a fundamental shift in power and wealth from average people and the governments they had formed to represent them; to the capture of those governments and economic enslavement of their people by corporate aristocracies.

This isn't the first time this has happened. Marc Bloch is one of the great 20th Century scholars of the feudal history of Europe. In his book Feudal Society he points out that feudalism is a fracturing of one authoritarian hierarchical structure into another: the state disintegrates, as local power brokers take over.

Whether the power and wealth agent that takes the place of government is a local baron, lord, king, or corporation, if it has greater power in the lives of individuals than does a representative government, the culture has dissolved into feudalism.

Bluntly, Bloch states: “The feudal system meant the rigorous economic subjection of a host of humble folk to a few powerful men.”

In almost every case, both with European feudalism and feudalism in China, South America, and Japan, “feudalism coincided with a profound weakening of the State, particularly in its protective capacity.” This doesn’t mean the end of government, but, instead the subordination of government to the interests of the feudal lords. Interestingly, even in Feudal Europe, Bloch points out:

“The concept of the State never absolutely disappeared, and where it retained the most vitality men continued to call themselves ‘free’…”

The transition from a governmental society to a feudal one is marked by the rapid accumulation of power and wealth in a few hands, with a corresponding reduction in the power and responsibilities of governments that represent the people. Once the rich and powerful gain control of the government, they turn it upon itself, usually first eliminating its taxation process as it applies to themselves. Says Bloch: “Nobles need not pay taille [taxes].”

Or, as Glenn Simpson noted in the Wall Street Journal, "General Electric Co., for example, reported paying an effective tax rate of 19% last year on world-wide income, compared with 26% in 2003."

In May of 2001 Bush administration Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill suggested there should be no corporate income tax whatsoever. This was the opening salvo in a very real war to have working people bear all the costs of the commons and governance, while the wealthy corporate elite derive most of its benefits.

And, as George H.W. Bush pointed out when he was president, this isn't just an American phenomenon. It's a New World Order.

As The Realization Trickles Down

A cornerstone of the conservative movement to consolidate power in the hands of a wealthy corporate elite, the campaign to end corporate income taxes altogether - and leave the rest of us to pick up the entire tab for corporate use of our institutions and corporation despoliation of our commons - first picked up steam when Reagan came to power in 1980.

As Cato Institute adjunct scholar Richard W. Rahn noted in Rev. Moon's Washington Times, "The idea and practice of the corporate income tax has been dying slowly for the last two decades."

The December 1, 2004 Washington Times article, titled "End Corporate Income Tax," reflects a powerful and growing movement not just in the United States but across the world. So-called "free trade" agreements and supranational institutions like the WTO have given multinational corporations control of the economic lives of nations that were previously democracies. Holland, Ireland, Germany, Portugal, Belgium - the list goes on and on.

As Mussolini told us, the newest form of feudalism has been reinvented and renamed. He called it "fascism" - a word that was defined by The American Heritage Dictionary (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1983) as "fas-cism (fash'iz'em) n. A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism."

We are quickly shifting toward a corporate-run state in countries all over the world. It appears "free" and even allows elections, albeit they are only among candidates funded and approved by corporate powers, held on voting machines owned by those corporate powers, and marketed in media owned by those corporate powers.

We are quickly shifting toward a corporate-run state in countries all over the world. It appears "free" and even allows elections, albeit they are only among candidates funded and approved by corporate powers, held on voting machines owned by those corporate powers, and marketed in media owned by those corporate powers.

But this bears little resemblance to the democratic republic envisioned by our nation's Founders.

If our elected representatives - and those of other "free" nations - don't quickly wake up and reverse course, we will soon again be in a feudal world.

It's up to us - We the People - to help them awaken.

Some of us are aware of the danger. Progressives, True Conservatives, even some evangelicals ( a future post if time permits) are awake and can smell the crap they call coffee.

So pinch the baby and get her screaming - maybe that will wake up the Red Staters.

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pessimist :: 2:17 AM :: Comments (12) :: Digg It!